Cigar Box Guitar #1: First CBG instrument

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Blog entry by D. B. posted 11-19-2019 03:21 PM 1125 reads 2 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Last year I broke my back and smashed my wrist. A year latter, Drs have put ol’ humpty dumpty back together again. My wrist is stiff, formal therapy is over. But I thought playing a guitar would be good exercise. So that means building one.

This past week I found a book in the library on making cigar box guitars. That piqued my interest and started a new project. First I visited local cigar shops and found they give boxes away. A trip to Lowes provided the wood materials for under $20. So I started with the headstock. I drew then cut out the shape I liked, including holes for the tuner posts. I made a jig to cut the head off the neck stock at 110 degrees. This created a scarf joint, which I glued together giving the angle to the head stock. This is supposed to aid in keeping the strings from buzzing. I found a source on Google for printing out a fret scale template. I was also able purchase a 1/4 inch thick piece of wood for the fret board. I taped the paper to the fret board and transferred the marks with a knife. Then I used a square to scribe the mark into a line which was square to the fret board. My Japanese pull saw made the thinnest cut as I used the square slots in the wooden miter box. The frets will be pressed into these slots latter…

My next step was to use the table saw to slot the piece of the neck which goes through the body of the cigar box. After I used the table saw for the rough cut, I used chisels to remove more of the neck stock. I did keep a small raised section for where the string bridge will rest on the box lid. The rest is cut away so it will vibrate freely.

I found a source in a nearby town for fret wire. Below a guitar show was a luthier, who sold me three wires. With these I completed my first two fret boards. Using a plastic mallet, which would not damage the wire frets. I tapped each fret into the slot I had cut previously. After they were seated I placed a large metal ruler on the frets and tapped up and down the metal ruler to give them a uniform height. A high fret will cause a string to buzz. Then I placed a single drop of super glue on the end of each fret to secure it in the slot. Fret wire looks like a very small mushroom in cross section. The rounded top is where the strings rest from finger pressure. The mushroom stem is in this case an extremely thin strip running the length of the wire. This strip is what is pressed into the slots, the rounded tops sit on top of the board.

I tapped the fret wires into the fret board. When I cut the wire with nippers they extended over the board, leaving sharp ends. Next I filed the protruding ends off flush to the board, then each end has to be rounded over, so the fret doesn’t snag or cut the player’s fingers. It was time to think about anchoring strings below the bridge. I am using a brass hinge. Finally I glued the fret board to the neck, trusting everything is in place for proper intonation later on.

This cigar box one is made out of MDF boards. These are basically sawdust pressed into boards and held together with glue—cheap stuff. This box must be for cheap cigars… I decided to brace the box in case it was dropped, it might hold together better. Bracing under the neck was glued in place so the neck could be attached to the body at this point, front and back.

l used a small piece of walnut from an old church communion / altar railing. With my router I shaped the sides. With the bridge attached I laid a measuring rule to find the mark from the middle of the brass “nut” to the bridge location. It is a 23 1/2 inch fret scale, so this is distance to the bridge. The ruler also gave me the height of the bridge, which turned out to equal the addition of a brass bolt for the string slots on the bridge. Super glue holds the brass to the walnut.

Sound holes were drilled. Finally the screws with finish washers fixed the lid in place

Put on some strings and tuned it up. Canted the bridge until the intonation and octaves were correct. It actually sounds OK!

2 comments so far

View DMiller's profile


559 posts in 1926 days

#1 posted 11-20-2019 04:04 AM

Nice! Very cool, glad to see and thanks for sharing!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View robscastle's profile


8542 posts in 3657 days

#2 posted 11-20-2019 09:39 AM

so where is the audio rendition of Stairway to heaven ?

-- Regards Rob

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